When jammers speak of their influences one hears the Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Phish, but there's a ghost in the room that rarely gets mentioned – The Talking Heads. Between 1977 and 1988, the lil' New York art school band-that-could chopped and played with Afro-beat, American funk, NYC post-punk, and nerd-pop. A decade and half later, a whole generation has grown up with their songs playing in their heads, and this tribute is a worthy byproduct of such lovely, bent childhood dreams.

Robert Walter's 20th Congress and Global Funk channel the Caucasian funk flavors on "Swamp" and "And She Was" respectively. Global Funk also works in some crisp vocalese, stop time jazz, and Philly soul to keep things lively. The melodies are so indestructible that it's still the vocal line that carries the instrumental interpretations of Walters and Garaj Mahal's "Psycho Killer," which adds some George Benson scatting over the top. Many Heads compositions are classic pop songs in disguise, a fact exploited beautifully by Exit Clov on "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)" and on Jessica Lurie's pretty cabaret take of "Heaven" that brings to mind Penelope Houston's best work.

Standouts include the New Up's creamy "What A Day That Was" peppered with hashish digressions and Delta Nove's delectably horn-i-fied "Crosseyed and Painless," which reveals both the jammin' possibilities of the original and a band well worth further investigation. Also worth a lighter in the air are RANA's balls out, off the rails "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel" and the Hairy Apes BMX's genuinely maniacal doom metal reworking of "Burning Down The House."

Umphrey's McGee, Moonshine Still, and Dark Star Orchestra offer up more orthodox renditions, which show perhaps too much respect but in an endearing way. The enormous affection these bands hold for the Talking Heads comes through loud and clear. Each tried in their own way to kneel before a pivotal influence. They have succeeded admirably, and the boon for listeners is a good mix tape to put you in the right mood.

Dennis Cook
JamBase | California
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